Not only does the Sprint Unlimited have a new name (from the Budweiser Shootout) but it could feature some new wrinkles that will be determined by fan voting.
NASCAR and Sprint announced that fan voting through the official NASCAR app for smartphones or via a link on NASCAR.com will determine the race's segment distances, type of pit stop after the first segment and if any cars will be eliminated after the second segment.
The choices for race segments are broken out into 40 laps/20 laps/15 laps, 35/30/10 and 35/20/20. That voting will end on February 13th, the Wednesday before the race.
The voting for pit stops and eliminations will close during the race. For the pit stop after the first segment, fans can vote for no mandatory pit stop, a mandatory (at least) two tire pit stop or a mandatory four tire pit stop. And on the elimination side of things, the options are either no cars eliminated, two, four, or six.
If I was the grand poobah of all of this, I would go with the 35/30/10 format. We all know how wild restrictor plate finishes can be over a short sprint (pun!) and since this is an exhibition race, the final segment might as well be as short as possible. As far as the pit stop goes, let's say four tires, because again, this is an exhibition race. There's no place here for strategy.
And on the side of eliminations, let's go with the max of six. With the new format of the bumpers on the cars, it's entirely possible that six cars could be eliminated in the form of a crash before we get to the final segment anyway. But if we've avoided the big one(s) up to that point, it's a great way to prevent teams from riding around in the back. If you can recall, Jimmie Johnson did a pretty good job of sandbagging in the All-Star Race in May.
You know what would also be an awesome fan voting category too? Best on-track obstacle. Fans could choose between Jet Dryer on Fire in Turn 3, Pothole in Turns 1 and 2, Chicago Inflatable Orange, Pocono Deer or Pocono Groundhog among others. How cool would that be?
What format would you vote for? And what obstacle would you pick? Drop us a line in the comments.